I just came across an article from The Dallas Morning News about a letter sent in 1995 by Republican county commissioners, including Kenneth Mayfield and Mike Cantrell, to 43 local doctors. The letter called homosexuality unacceptable and compared it to prostitution and drug abuse. It urged the doctors to support the county’s recently enacted ban on condom distribution, which was finally overturned earlier today. Read the article after the jump:
3 commissioners send AIDS letter calling homosexuality unacceptable
By Tracy Everbach, Staff Writer, The Dallas Morning News, Friday, June 16, 1995
A majority of Dallas County commissioners have signed a letter sent to 43 area doctors that says homosexuality, like prostitution and drug abuse, is unacceptable.
The letter, signed by Commissioners Jim Jackson, Mike Cantrell and Kenneth Mayfield, asks the doctors to support the county’s ban on Health Department distribution of condoms and
needle-sterilization kits in programs to prevent the spread of AIDS and other diseases.
“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” the letter says. “And, we don’t intend to be the vehicle through which others are given this message.”
The three commissioners were on an official trip to Cincinnati Thursday and couldn’t be reached.
Some gays and lesbians expressed outrage at the
“My first thought is that this looks like the same way ethnic cleansing happens,” said Jamie Schield, director of education for the nonprofit AIDS Resource Center, which helps people infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
“It spells out what we have said all along,” he said. “These policies were not made with public health in mind. They were made with a specific population in mind. They were aimed at the gay community.”
Harvey Channell, a Dallas County precinct chairman who heads the predominantly gay Metroplex Republicans organization, said categorizing gays with criminals is “objectionable.”
“These three groups are not the only groups affected” by AIDS, Mr. Channell said. “It is very narrow-minded and lacks any research into the subject.”
County Judge Lee Jackson and County Commissioner John Wiley Price did not sign the letter, which was written on Jim Jackson’s letterhead.
Lee Jackson, reached on the Ohio trip, said he refused to sign because the letter is not relevant to developing new Health Department programs.
“The only issue is whether we have effective Health Department programs that the community can support, and whether Dallas County continues to operate the programs we have now or starts new ones,” the county judge said.
Until the Commissioners Court voted in March to ban condoms and bleach for sterilizing drug abusers’ needles from programs aimed at preventing diseases, health workers had given those items to people at risk for various diseases, including AIDS.
Proponents of the ban say they believe a program based on abstaining from illegal drug use and nonmarital sex can be more effective.
A decision on the funding is expected by June 30.
Mr. Price, the court’s lone Democrat, said his colleagues’ actions “do not adequately reflect the majority of this community.”
“I think they’re trying to be the moral police,” he said.
A list of the recipients of the letter shows that few if any are infectious-disease or public health specialists. Six are dentists and four, including former City Council member Charles Tandy, are anesthesiologists. Also on the list are Dr. Ken Cooper, who heads the Cooper Fitness Center in North Dallas; and Dr. Fred Aurbach, a dentist who once headed the now-defunct Dallas Motion Picture Classification Board.
The letter says the commissioners’ intent has been
misinterpreted by “some in the medical community and some in the media.”
In the last two months, the president of the 6,000-member Dallas County Medical Society and a society committee of
infectious-disease physicians have denounced the ban, saying it probably will lead to “a public health and a financial disaster.”
The letter from the three commissioners says the elected officials “have not restricted the discussion of how . . . (sexually transmitted diseases) are transmitted and how to live a safe or safer lifestyle.”
“We have not even prohibited discussing condoms ,” the letter says. “But we do believe an effective abstinence-first and drug-free educational and prevention format is possible and desirable.”
Don Maison, president and chief executive officer of AIDS Services of Dallas, which provides housing to people with AIDS, said politicians have no place setting public health policy.
“This confirms my suspicion that neither compassion nor intelligence is a qualification to hold public office in Texas,” he said. “Our county government is steeped in homophobia.”